Over the past few weeks, I have been testing FIFA 21’s online functionality. If you read my initial review you would have seen that I left out commentary on this particular aspect as the game was not fully released yet, and FIFA history has taught us that the best possible test of the game’s online capabilities are when the servers are at full capacity. Unlike stadiums around the world currently.
For those who didn’t experience FIFA 20 or FIFA 19, let me tell you that for all the good of the constant content added to FUT, the objectives, challenges, and new things to do… the online gameplay was an absolute mess. Responsiveness issues, out of sync gameplay, and much worse were common occurrences. Despite calls from the community to EA to fix and/or upgrade their servers, nothing was done. The hope was that for FIFA 21, these issues would finally be solved. In short… they haven’t been.
Servers are to FIFA gameplay what Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes: A nemesis. A nemesis that causes havoc, and quite honestly tries to – and often succeeds in – making life miserable.
For reference, I have focused most of my online play on FIFA Ultimate Teams. I refuse to spend any real money on the game and as of now I sit with an 86 rated team (proudly including Son and Van Dijk), 400k in currency and playing in Division 1 on Division Rivals. What this shows is that even without investing in the pay-to-win model that is so evident, there’s still a lot to be done in the mode.
What it doesn’t tell you is that FIFA 21 (like it’s recent predecessors) is bad for your mental wellbeing. FUT has a lot of content going on already with a great setup in terms of its Friendly Mode for challenges, the constant stream of promos and squad building challenges… but once again it is stifled by the atrocious gameplay when the servers are full. The worst thing about it is you just don’t know what kind of experience you are going to have when you log on to play because there’s no telling what state the gameplay is in until you actually start a match.
At its best, when servers are functioning as they should be, the gameplay is responsive, tactical and thoroughly enjoyable. This year’s meta, so far, is one that requires lots of pace, attentiveness on defence, and huge benefits to skill moves and shooting stats. Sadly though, at its worst – the more common of the two – the gameplay becomes stuck in the mud, glitchy, ridiculous nonsense that can only be compared to a third division match in South Africa, with no fans, a dodgy ref as much excitement as misdirected shot hitting a bird that was minding its own business.
When servers are full, they are unresponsive. Your players will pass in the wrong direction, player switching won’t work as it should – often taking you to a player that’s running the wrong way – while tackling is a complete lottery. The amount of times I have made perfect tackles only for the ball to bobble around and find its way back to the striker while my defender catches airplanes is just ludicrous.
There’s little else to say really. Weekend League and Division Rivals don’t have the kind of reward structure that make really investing time in them worthwhile, and even if you just want to test your skills you are likely to be hampered by the slow, unresponsive gameplay.
It’s a real pity because when everything is firing FIFA 21 is quite easily one of the best FIFA experiences to date. With the constant stream of content to keep players engaged, and the excitement of building a team and grinding to open packs there’s so much to be positive about.
But is it worth it at the risk of breaking your controller due to a rage-induced tantrum after your keeper passes the ball the wrong way? Is it worth a broken couch because your player didn’t kick the ball and you thought kicking the couch might make it better? Probably not.
Last Updated: October 29, 2020